In ‘the life’ – survive vs. suicide

As Human Trafficking Awareness Month comes to a close, I’d say there was a much larger presence of those focused on this issue and those others which can be the beginning steps to trafficking. I’d like to remind everyone that for those who have or are trying to survive the influence human trafficking has left on their sense of personal value and the survival behaviors learned while you are trapped.

Human beings, like other animals, adapt to their surroundings. Our inner most sense is that of survival itself. So let me ask this; ‘When you are so engulfed by constant explosive and almost deadly violence wouldn’t you become quite submissive to survive? How long do you think you could hang on? How bad would it be when you started praying for them to kill you and end your misery? You survive the best you possibly can, but if there is no sign of help or hope, you pray they kill you so you are free!!

This is the life you learn to endure and the behaviors of the human being will naturally adapt to keep you alive. Let me assure you; those who do survive rarely just walk the door of trafficking and live life like what is needed to adapt in ‘normal’ everyday neighborhoods. Without residential recovery services like those provided by Eden’s Glory & Grounds of Grace, among others; going from ‘The Life’ to a self sustaining life is usually filled with a path of addiction, mental illness, extreme emotional distress, lack on interpersonal skills, and a continued submissive behavior (despite how hard we try to cover that up). There is rarely any money available from the trafficker to pay for services needed to help their victims, so this burden lies on the shoulders of those who want to help. These are usually provided by nonprofit services who need funding from you and I; they are struggling for funding to help create more functional and self supporting individuals. The end result of their services will change the lives of these persons and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

When you are trapped in this way of life, you learn to live in a ‘Survive vs Suicide’ mode of thinking. The pain becomes so bad physically and emotionally that you pray they kill you just to put you out of your misery. You hope for a way out and if you run into the arms of another person, you are extremely lucky if that is a kind person who truly wants to keep you safe and learn how to live on your own. More common than not you end of up going straight to the arms of another abuser, usually a domestic relationship that starts off being really kind and your survival habits make you more tolerable of acts of control or degrading remarks. These are dismissed and before you know it, one day they take a swing. The first strike is always the most difficult one, so the second will be much easier and more aggressive. This will take over your relationship and become your existence at least two or three times a week. Your holidays will be taken over by the threat or possibility of violence. You will rarely defend yourself and even less likely to leave because of those few good moments you share. You tell yourself, ‘He does love me. He is good to me most of the time. He just gets angry. If I don’t do this, or I stop doing that, he will stop hitting me. Just so long as he doesn’t leave me alone, doesn’t kick me out, doesn’t cheat on me, doesn’t hurt my kids. This is the way of life for those who have been so violently and violated in the life of trafficking.

How is a person who has grown up in this type of threatening environment and distorted behaviors supposed to choose the right relationships or live a stable everyday life? How are they supposed to learn to associate in common social and professional environments? If we do not ensure funding for shelters and rebuilding services for young and old, victims of family violence, sexual harm, and trafficking, then we cannot just expect them to be self sufficient and become a member of the family, become a parent or a teacher, become a police officer or a social services caseworker without some turmoil and dysfunctional behavior.

Now believe me it is possible for those who have gone through this tragic way of life, especially as children or teens, and then become a parent without any support or family around to help them. We learn to isolate ourselves out of the heavy shame and disgust we carry for our past. We can’t just open our mouths and say; ‘I was forced to have sex with a lot of men from a very young age’. Do you have any idea the level of courage it takes to say these words? If it had happened to you, could you just sit down to dinner and say this to a mother in-law, or an uncle? Could you go see your priest one time and tell him these words? Could you go to a stranger, a doctor, or an employer trying to explain why you’re ill all the time or having so much trouble?

This is why it’s important for survivors of these types of traumatic events seek help. It’s why it’s important to find your voice and help others find their own light. It’s why we need the services of Violence Prevention Center, Hoyleton Youth & Family, DHS, SAVE, Call for Help, PAVE, The Women’s Center, RAINN, ChildHelp, NAASCA, and other leading local and national organizations. All of them continue to put their hearts into the mission of saving lives and rebuilding lives, healing generations every single day. I’m very proud today to say that now we also have Butterfly Dreams Alliance, an incredible team who have joined me in creating a prevention and rebuilding nonprofit service for families & professional education in Southern Illinois.

Today my life has come full circle. I am no longer trapped and praying for death. I am no longer contemplating survive vs suicide. I am 55 years old, I am in the best relationship of my life. I have three beautiful grown amazing children. I have three amazing grandchildren. I have made hundreds of inspiring and supportive friends across the country. We have fought to update and change policies & statutes together. We are creating more known knowledge about the human mind and the human heart in every survivor we encourage along the way.

Today my life is truly free and I am so thankful that I did not miss the dance it has given me. Please help those services in your area and across the country!!!

Published by @Trecia_Ann

Recently, Facebook locked and removed my decade long creation of work and public profile, which focused my work as an advocate, speaker, mentor, and creator of more than a few programs used throughout Illinois, but also shared nationally and some have reached international platforms. So.... let's start fresh and see where it goes! Please see the writings on this blog dating back into 2011, created after the publication of 'My Justice'. There are two specifically, which have been tagged and shared by many....."Judging Eyes" and "Triggers; what they are and how to handle them" I am a survivor of over thirty years trapped inside the silence and brutality of Family Facilitated Violence, Torture, and Child Sex Trafficking. In Feb. 2011, I chose to publish the secrets and the horrors endured; the many levels of destruction and decay which the community around me witnessed, ignored, condemned and blamed regardless of the injuries and tortures endured. It all became the learned patterns of self-hatred and tolerance which was a huge factor in my adult life. Have you endured childhood harm, or endured terroristic types of abuses? Did you feel unworthy of life, breathing, love or respect? Did you feel as if no one ever really saw you, heard you, or seemed to care about the silent cruelties of your existence? It wasn't until I honestly began a strong focus on healing myself, which took years of researching credible data and published research surrounding the lasting effects of abuse, violence, sexual harm, and human trafficking that I began to understand who I was and why there were many traits and tragedies that influenced my adult choices, relationships, the chaos deep in my soul and the behaviors used to survive. It seemed to control everything inside me and it was filled with pain, and tragedy. The research became my rebuilding journey and my road to advocacy, creating legislative changes, sitting as an active member and providing testimony in the creation of area task force operations, victim/survivor services, trauma informed awareness for law enforcement, educators, social services, healthcare and community providers. I began that research of understanding myself in 2008, wrote the memoir "My Justice' in 2010, began working to change statutes in my home state in 2013, became a Certified DV Advocate and Panel Member of DV Offender Education Program in 2015, which then initiated a decade long career as a trusted, confidential advocate, and a highly skilled and knowledgeable speaker/educator on the topic of Assessment, Family/Survivor Rebuilding, Trauma Informed Care & Response, with the primary focus on family/relationship acts of terroristic abuses and/or human trafficking. Beginning in January 2010 there have been developed programs and connected resources for men, women, children, and families who endured these same types of tragedies. Unfortunately, our human society still has barriers to seek help or speak openly about these types of tragedies, especially if it happened in our homes and families. The laws to protect from such harms were enacted for children in 1963, as an amendment to the Social Security Act. Domestic Violence was not a topic until 1995, when then Senator Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which has since been adapted to provide shelters, counseling, protection orders, and rebuilding services for ALL persons regardless of gender or identity. Although slavery was brought to an end by the historical act of President Abraham Lincoln, we unfortunately have millions of human beings still being traded, sold, controlled and trapped in a hellish evil, which often begins by a parent or intimate partner. Legislation didn't arise regarding the term 'Human Trafficking' until the turn of the new millennium. Protection for victims of human trafficking was signed into law as the 'Trafficking In Persons Act of 2000', which with modern day social media it quickly became a new hot-topic point, which then sparked the creation of Trauma Informed Care, Rebuilding & Trauma Therapy, and thus adult survivors began speaking out about the dark terrifying reality of Child Sex Trafficking. Today many use the term, Modern Day Slavery, and we have multi-faceted task force operations and rescue resources working around the globe to end this new form of human slavery. We also have a few hundred thousand or more who are adult survivors of histories involving Parental Child Sex Trafficking. In one recent study from 2018, they found 85% of these victims were trafficked by parents in trade for drugs, family needs, or basic human survival. As I look back on the career that grew from my own personal need to understand the chaos in my head, the constant failed relationships and almost murderous acts committed against me; as I deal with increasing health problems that includes multiples of head and spinal cord traumas; the most important goal for me from day one of this extremely personal experience; the healing and rebuilding of my own children and grandchildren who were all continued generational victims of the trauma influenced behaviors and choices that resulted from the destruction enforced by my mother and stepfather many decades ago. The little girl, 'Trecia Ann', she survived pure evil as an entire community witnessed, shamed, blamed, and dismissed the visible decay and rot, stench and filth covered, battered and intoxicated body of a young girl who was publicly exploited and shared in the bars of that small town, in her home with boys she attended school with and adult men from the local coalmine. It was as if they all got a thrill from watching her respond to the ring of that little brass bell. They laughed, molested, raped, and purchased for a few bucks or a few beers the sexual use of that young girl right in full public view! Her mother held the power to stop it all, but rather enjoyed having a 'slave' to cook, clean, care for the family as well as entertain the sadistic alcoholic man she chose to marry. Today, I'm so honored and proud to have that little girl's spirit with me. It is through the use of my lived experience, along with a decade of research, and at least five certifications in prevention, response, and trauma; I've assisted a few hundred survivors through the multilevel process of rebuilding and reclaiming their voice, their safety, their freedom! I've trained law enforcement, healthcare, childrens service investigators, our school educators, and co-presented in trainings with some outstanding experts in the field. For the many I've assisted or empowered, they continue becoming thriving survivors, advocates, authors, speakers, and most important of all; they are healing their children and grandchildren! It is a truly beautiful experience and I am so amazed to have been a spark, a resource, or a friend in their life reclaiming freedom. The adult children of generations past have broken through the glass ceiling and finally there is a hint of change in the world. "A lifetime filled with daily torture, tragedy, and pain creates someone completely different than we should have been. We feel that person inside, but our lives are altered by the emotional and physical suffering. We cover it up and hide it deep inside through substance abuse, which falsely helps us believe we are doing fine. The extreme physical and emotional injuries leave our mental and physical selves terribly impacted. Thankfully there is more information and resources of help available today for all types of adverse or traumatic experiences. We have specialized therapeutic help and healthcare professionals developing new ways to identify and assist persons harmed or at risk of harm. We have so much more to do, so please help by having casual open conversations with your friends, family, coworkers, leaders, and especially our kids. Teach them early how to avoid both online and in person harms. Encourage adults and kids both to use the BDA Buddy Skills 2.0, which you will find through my list of assessments and prevention strategies. "My Justice' was written through my own beginning of acknowledging and releasing the personal destruction of the girl once known as 'Trecia Ann'. It is not an easy read, but it has opened many eyes about the reality of evil that occurs inside our homes, against those too small to protect themselves or understand what's happening. It was published to release the thick layers of trauma, sex trafficking, and disfiguring neglect. It is the voice of the enslaved child who existed only to answer the ring of 'his' bell, and the enforced burden to keep my own private terrorist alive. 'My Justice' is NOT SUGGESTED FOR ANYONE UNDER 16 years of age. It discusses the permanently wounding life and the cycle of destruction that held me in tolerating ridicule, control, and violence in my adult relationships. This truth was published to inspire others to take an in-depth look at their life and behaviors as a result of their past, in hopes they too will better understand their suffering today, the continued relationships with the parents and family who inflicted those harms, and finally breaking free from that pain so they can reclaim their voice and their true sense of freedom! We always have the opportunity to learn that we are worthy, capable, incredibly strong, compassionate, and filled with endless possibilities. It is a choice. It is a conscious decision to dig into our trauma, take ownership of our own failures, the harm our choices have caused, and the work we need to do to change it and succeed for ourselves and our families. It is such an honor to have 'My Justice' used at the collegiate level for psychology classes, upcoming therapists, and educators. Today my life is very blessed. I'm finally safe, feel truly loved, finally feeling the magic of life! Always choose to see your star and how it shines on others in your journey. My greatest power only began to show when I first made the choice to end the violent relationships and behaviors around my children; to give them something better, something SAFE!! In choosing to share my own story, I've also gone the serious extra step to educate myself through years of research, attending training opportunities, and collaborating with other advocate resources focused in human resilience and healing from abuse, sexual harm, and sex trafficking. Today there are experts digging deep to recreate help and healing. I've chosen to use my past as a way to inspire a greater good and; hopefully, somehow change the cycle of tragedy in our homes so that we empower our kids to live a more positive path. The best education we can give is healing our survivors of traumatic experiences so we understand what they felt then and what they wish they would have had available; those who could have and should have said something. We can change things for our life today, but best of all in healing our wounds, we give communities a supportive working strategy in assisting the people in our lives. One step at a time, one caring soul at a time, we can give them a path to changing our human society as a whole. This is a tell-all, which was written in the midst of my third nervous breakdown as I struggled to put all my distorted pieces back together, and help my children understand how the violence I tolerated against me invaded their well-being. My children have always been my world, but my behaviors, lack of healthy parenting and life skills, and an inability to remain stable have caused another generation of suffering for my grandchildren. This is a very difficult thing to watch and the continued tragedies that seem to keep affecting the choices in my family. Writing this book was only the beginning of trying to release all that has haunted me for so many years. I have finally removed his thick, cruel, coal-stained hand which trapped me in fear for decades. Those hands and his evil, her housemaid and caregiver; created a slave, and that slave submitted to horrific and brutal attacks but always felt it was her burden to bear. I lived with that hand holding me down, continually terrorizing and silencing, stealing my voice to protect their pure evil. Throughout decades the dysfunction caused by the chaos inside my head would affect every relationship, my children, and cast a shadow of darkness on everything good in my life. Living in the true spirit of freedom, I have now become a strong advocate against the life cycle of human destruction. If we want to control our life and achievements today, then we cannot live stuck in the tragedy of hardships and pain. Life is meant to be lived, to be enjoyed, to see what you can do and what you can achieve, to find out what is important to you. We all become adults. We all have a burden to bear. Stand up and keep moving, keep living, keep dreaming. You have two choices in recreating and rebuilding yourself. Do you stay stuck in the dark shadows of your past? Do you dig deep and find that spirit that kept you alive so that you can become the proud, strong, capable, resilient, kind human being? Which do you choose and how will that choice affect your children and theirs? We can be supportive, and provide resources and suggest help so that families suffering from addiction or past trauma can find a recovery balance to rebuild their family into a more positive life pattern. We will recover, we will rebuild, we will conquer the pains of yesterday to live in the true sense of life, freedom, and safety today. Patricia 'Trish' McKnight Author: 'My Justice' Fndr/CEO: Butterfly Dreams Alliance, NFP Mentor/Advocate/Speaker/Survivor

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